Does everyone know how much a necktie costs in a Tokyo department store? Let me help you – about ¥10,000, which translates to USD $127. For a basic, silk-ish boring striped necktie.

I haven’t bought my husband a new necktie in years because I couldn’t stomach paying that price for something I knew I had the skills and resources to make. This meant he had no neckties. I experimented with making ties using Liberty of London cottons, but the ties proved too flimsy. A good tie needs some heft, and the fusible interfacing in these made them more like wispy bits of cardboard hanging from a shirt. Recently, I tried again with wool.

The thicker wool and sew-in interfacing allow these ties to swing freely. Because we know men like their accessories to swing freely. I altered Burda pattern 3403 to create a skinny 2 1/2″ tie rather than the fat 4″ as instructed. The fabric is a Pendleton plaid with cotton shirting lining, and cashmere blend herringbone lined in red silk.

With more practice I think I’ll be able to master better points. More practice means more ties, and a way to lure someone into fabric stores with me.

During this photo-op Dan informed me he would never wear this outfit in public. He would obviously need to wear a suit jacket with a tie. Such discerning taste.

And yes, that is a baseball bat tie clip.

Lady Liberty

Riding the high of my two handmade shirts, I decided to try my hand at embellishing an otherwise plain tank top. Just jazz it up a bit.

I spotted some Liberty of London bias tape on sale at Yuzawaya and couldn’t pass it up. Normally around 600 yen for 2 meters, it was half price. And I got an additional 30% off but don’t ask me why because I have no idea. When a woman wants to give me money back, I just smile and nod at her.

My face is making a very deer-in-the-headlights sort of expression, and thus the crop.  Perhaps it was because the neighbor was peeking at me, wondering why a strange girl is smiling at her wall.

In truth this project posed a bit of a challenge because I’ve never sewn knit fabrics before. I know you are supposed to zig-zag, turn in a circle, jump up and down and sing a song in order to sew correctly with knits, but in the end it was easier for me to hand stitch. A DVD movie marathon later, I had myself a new tank.

I love the little bit of pizzazz the bias tape gives the tank. It’s not too much color. I know it is summer, but let’s not get crazy!

A Weekend of Craft Shops, Day 1

Yesterday I regaled you with my confession of otakuness, and here is the proof.

This past weekend we set out to Futako-tamagawa in search of a craft shop.  That’s right, I lured Dan along with the promise of ramen, but we somehow ran out of time.  I’m a cruel woman.

Hobbyra Hobbyre and Lido Merceria are not just craft stores, but Tokyo shopping at its best — small, well-curated specialty shops for the enthusiast.

Let’s begin with Hobbyra Hobbyre, a French-embroidery-inspired, Liberty-of-London-lover’s paradise.  This shop carries a little bit of a lot of things, but all were of the best quality — beautiful cotton and linen print fabrics, fine yarns and wood knitting needles, sewing patterns and books, needlework supplies, selected tools and notions, and amazing printed embroidery kits.  I mean amazing.  I wanted to leave with a few of each.

The downside to this shop is that it’s a bit expensive.  Fabric was in the 1000-2500 yen per meter range (US$12-$30 per yard), yet I picked up some reasonably-priced sashiko supplies for 200 yen each (US$2.50).  Dan told me later that, while waiting outside, he got a bit nervous when a woman left the shop exclaiming how expensive it all was, because I was still inside, taking my sweet time, certainly doing damage to our bank account.  My words, not his of course.

The crown jewel of the day, maybe my entire week, was the Hello Kitty + Liberty of London limited edition cotton prints.  Both have a dedicated cult following (many of you know about my little Liberty crush), and they’ve combined forces to produce some of the most whimsical and lovely fabric I’ve seen.  I stood there for a while trying to come up with a project idea worth the 3200 yen per meter price tag (almost US$40 per yard), but in the end I decided I couldn’t love Ms. Kitty quite enough.

This sneak-attack photo doesn’t reveal much (photos aren’t typically allowed in craft stores), but the print is of Hello Kitty flitting amongst London Town icons.  (Apparently this collection is only being sold in Japan, so if anyone is interested I’d be willing to go find some and put up a reserved listing in my shop – send me an email to discuss).

I went to Futako-tamagawa in search of Hobbyra Hobbyre, but was delighted to find Lido Merceria just next door.  Where Hobbyra Hobbyre is all things embroidery and French floral, Lido Merceria is German retro-era needlepoint.

Lido Merceria feels more like a curiosity shop than a craft store.  I loved the display case of vintage scissors and tools (yes, those are $85 embroidery snips, for anyone who is counting). With notions, buttons and trim, patches, and upholstery-weight fabric, all in varying degrees of vintage and new, this shop was a treat.

And what did I end the day with? I showed incredible restraint — sashiko thread in pretty pastels, a printed sashiko pattern, and a few swatches of Liberty fabric.  Not a bad day.

Getting there: Take the Tokyu-Den-Entoshi Line from Shibuya station or the Tokyu-Oimachi Line to Futako-tamagawa station.  Cross through Dogwood Plaza to locate the Takashimaya Shopping Center. Lido Merceria and Hobbyra Hobbyre and on the 5th floor of the South building, across from the Camper shoe store.

Lido Merceria  Tel. 03-6805-6822, open 10-9
Hobbyra Hobbyre  ホビーラホビーレ  Tel. 03-3707-1430, open 10-9

Tamagawa Takashimaya S-C South Building 5F, 3-17-1 Tamagawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo

〒158-0094 東京都世田谷区玉川3-17-1 玉川高島屋S・C 南館5F

According to their website, Hobbyra Hobbyre can be found in other locations around Japan.  Check store locations on their website for more information.